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The Characteristics of a Hero

The coronavirus pandemic has literally frozen many public events and gatherings, including Buddhist ceremonies which Thai Buddhists celebrate every year. But there is still a positive side amidst the disruption and panic.

Once again, the whole world has united in fighting the virus. Millions of people are reaching out to comfort, inspire, and encourage one another to be strong during this extended period of distress. In all forms, help has been pouring in, ranging from donations to voluntary work, in a bid to relieve the workload of dedicated frontline healthcare workers and those affected by the pandemic’s devastating impact on the economy.

Many have realized their true potential and strength they never thought they had. Not only have they managed to weather the storm, but have also become the source of inspiration to others. Heroes are born in times of crisis, indeed.

At the latest Buddhist holiday, Asanha Bucha Day on 6 July, I could not help but compare those heroic acts to my spiritual master, the Buddha, for his contribution in pulling mankind out of endless darkness and suffering.

Asanha Bucha is one of the three most important Buddhist holy days. It was the day that Buddha delivered his first sermon after reaching spiritual enlightenment, resulting in the ordination of the first monk. Therefore, it was also the first day Buddha declared the birth of Buddhism as the religion’s three basic creeds were completely established, namely, Buddha, Dhamma (the teaching), and Sangha (the monastic part).

One of the most-protected and honoured groups of people during the coronavirus crisis have been medical personnel. The reason is, not as much for their specialized skills and knowledge in fighting the disease, as their tireless dedication in saving as many lives as possible. It has all been about the sacrifice and unfathomable willpower that has won our hearts.

As I am watching the whole crisis unfold, it really makes sense to me why Buddhists should give more respect to the Prophet whose contribution and sacrifice were much, much greater. The impact he has created through his teachings are long-lasting, and what he did was show us the way out of the wheel of Karma and the cycle of rebirth forever.

The global healthcare crisis has forced us to pause and contemplate what true life fulfilment is, apart from restoring our belief in goodness. For Buddhist practitioners, these two things are paramount in the journey toward spiritual liberation. They are what the Buddha taught more than 2,500 years ago. Because of that, he is a true hero in every sense.